UAB is returning to the playing field this fall after a brief absence from the world of college football, and head coach Bill Clark is working hard to build a program once again. This weekend, Clark was more than happy to announce the latest addition to the program in the not-so-subtle ways college football coaches tend to do on Twitter.
A couple of hours after that tweet was posted by Clark, former Tennessee defensive end Mykelle McDaniel announced on his Twitter account he had committed to the Blazers, followed by a retweet of Clark’s previous post.
McDaniel will be forced to sit out the upcoming 2017 season due to NCAA transfers. He will be eligible to play again in 2018 with three years of eligibility remaining. McDaniel sat out the 2016 season at Tennessee as a redshirt.
In the relatively brief history of the Conference USA championship game, there has never been a rematch of the previous season’s title game. If all goes according to plan as predicted by the media, that could change in 2017.
Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech were each the clear favorites to win their respective divisions in the Conference USA preseason media poll released today. Both programs received 20 first-place votes to easily be named the preseason favorites in the Conference USA divisions, setting the stage for a potential rematch in the Conference USA championship game at the end of the season. Western Kentucky is the two-time defending Conference USA champion, and Louisiana Tech has played in two of the last three title games, so it was hardly a shock to see both programs be named the preseason favorites by the media.
UAB returns to the football field this season, and the preseason poll suggests it will be a rocky return. The Blazers were picked to finish last in the West Division. After Louisiana Tech, UTSA picked up seven first-place votes to come in second in the preseason poll. Southern Miss, now a year removed from playing for the conference championship, received the last remaining first-place vote in the West Division.
Western Kentucky failed to gobble up all of the first-place votes in the East Division as well. Middle Tennessee received four votes, while Old Dominion picked up three. Marshall also received a first-place nod from the voters. New FBS program and conference member Charlotte was picked last in the East, as expected. Lane Kiffin‘s FAU Owls were picked to finish in fifth place.
Here’s how the preseason media poll in Conference USA looks. No picks for conference champion were made.
Conference USA East Division
- Western Kentucky (20 first-place votes)
- Middle Tennessee (4)
- Old Dominion (3)
- Marshall (1)
- Florida Atlantic
Conference USA West Division
- Louisiana Tech (20)
- UTSA (7)
- Southern Miss (1)
- North Texas
July 1 used to be a blip on the college sports calendar, the official date an administrator would move into a new role or an athletics department’s website would switch host companies.
Days before America’s Independence Day, July 1 has become college sports’ mixture of New Year’s Day and Independence Day. Thanks to realignment, the beginning of each college sports calendar is the date every conference move traditionally becomes officially official.
The SEC, Big Ten and ACC are done making moves (for now), which means today’s movements are really the ripple effects of other movements — UAB officially re-joins Conference USA and Coastal Carolina officially joins the Sun Belt.
UAB, of course, never left C-USA in its other sports, but the re-launch of its football program places the Blazers back in their old home. Coastal Carolina’s other sports, including its national champion-once-removed baseball team, joined the Sun Belt in 2016, and football makes the move complete in 2017.
UAB posted a 6-6 mark in its final season of 2014, while Coastal Carolina went 10-2 and finished the year ranked No. 18 nationally as an FCS independent. The two schools will, fittingly, meet on Sept. 16 in Birmingham.
The final three aftershocks of the realignment earthquakes that erupted at the beginning of this decade will become official after this season, when the Sun Belt gives the boot to its far western outposts in Idaho and New Mexico State. New Mexico State will remain in FBS as an independent (the Aggies’ other sports are in the WAC), while Idaho will marry its football program with the rest of its athletics department in the FCS Big Sky Conference.
2017 will mark the return of UAB football after a brief absence on the scene following a controversial disbanding of the program. As part of that return to college football, the school is in the market to schedule several future games down the road and it appears one of the Blazers non-conference games could include a trip up the highway to play in-state power Auburn.
“We’ve had conversations with them,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs confirmed to AL.com this week. “We’d love to play them again if we can work it out on the schedule, but finding a common date is often difficult to do some times.”
As Jacobs alludes to, finding a match in terms of dates could prove to be tricky. The Tigers have filled all their non-conference slots through 2019 and already have already agreed to home games against two fellow CUSA programs in 2020 and 2022.
On the flip side, UAB also has signed up their fair share of top-flight SEC competition as well. The school will play at Florida this season and will travel to Texas A&M in 2018 and Tennessee in 2019. Meetings with the state’s two SEC programs are rare (Auburn and UAB last played in 1996) but it could be fun to see the recently revived Blazers find a way to schedule their neighbors up the road at some point in the future.
Based on comments from both schools, the only question left now might be what the date actually is.
As UAB football continues preparations for its return, Bill Clark has tweaked his Blazers coaching staff.
In a press release, the football program announced that Hindley Brigham has been promoted to running backs coach. A former Baylor and Furman running back, Brigham had served as an offensive analyst for Clark since 2016.
This will be Brigham’s first on-field role at the collegiate level.
“We are really excited to have Hindley move into our running backs position,” said Clark in a statement. “He was an outstanding running back in his own right and relates to our players. He brings toughness and tenacity along with being a very good student in college himself. He is going to help us in the running backs room and will be a terrific recruiter as well.”
Brigham will replace Randy Pippin, who will move into the role of Director of Player Relations for the football program. Pippin had served as running backs coach since 2015.
“Coaching retention is critical to the success of our football program and these adjustments will assist in those efforts moving forward,” the head coach said. “Our coaches have done a tremendous job keeping our players focused and motivated for two years now without playing a game, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the consistency and hard work of the entire staff.”